Despite its historical-romance package, the emphasis on complicated intertribal politics and the proper manufacture of...

OBSIDIAN AND STARS

The sequel to prehistoric Pride and Prejudice retelling Ivory and Bone (2016) feels more akin to George R.R. Martin than Jane Austen.

Despite her tight emotional reserve, Mya is more than willing to leave her own clan to be with Kol, yet in order to protect her sister from an unwanted betrothal, both young women flee to a distant island. But romantic woes are soon overshadowed by tragedy and violence, as two different clans with vindictive agendas target Mya, Kol, and everyone they love. With each tribe’s survival at stake, both Mya and Kol must choose whether their responsibility is to their people—or their future together. After animal attacks, earthquakes, drowning, illness, betrayal, warfare, and murder, the deaths and near escapes number in the dozens, yet Mya’s restrained first-person present-tense narration remains oddly detached. Occasionally her musings on nature or the (female) Divine approach a stark poetry; more often her meticulous reportage becomes numbing. Eshbaugh has clearly done her research, and the characters and their culture feel convincing and distinct from any modern peoples, although some elements seem scientifically implausible. Mya herself is strong, capable, and of immense integrity; her personal arc, from tentative wariness to a trusting openness to love, is compelling.

Despite its historical-romance package, the emphasis on complicated intertribal politics and the proper manufacture of atlatl darts might appeal more to those interested in anthropology or wilderness survival. (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-239928-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A resounding success.

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CONCRETE ROSE

This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017).

The tale begins in 1998 Garden Heights, when Starr’s parents, Maverick and Lisa, are high school seniors in love and planning for the future. Thomas proves Game of Thrones–esque in her worldbuilding ability, deepening her landscape without sacrificing intimacy or heart. Garden Heights doesn’t contain dragons or sorcerers, but it’s nevertheless a kingdom under siege, and the contemporary pressures its royalty faces are graver for the realness that no magic spell can alleviate. Mav’s a prince whose family prospects are diminished due to his father’s federally mandated absence. He and his best friend, King, are “li’l homies,” lower in status and with everything to prove, especially after Mav becomes a father. In a world where masculinity and violence are inextricably linked to power, the boys’ very identities are tied to the fathers whose names they bear and with whose legacies they must contend. Mav laments, “I ain’t as hard as my pops, ain’t as street as my pops,” but measuring up to that legacy ends in jail or the grave. Worthy prequels make readers invest as though meeting characters for the first time; here they learn more about the intricate hierarchies and alliances within the King Lord gang and gain deeper insight into former ancillary characters, particularly Mav’s parents, King, and Iesha. Characters are Black.

A resounding success. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284671-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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